EXCEPTIONAL ASSOCIATION COPY OF THE 1794 CARRIAGE ACT, RARE FIRST PRINTING OF THE FIRST AMERICAN LAW WHOSE CONSTITUTIONALITY WAS CHALLENGED AND THE FIRST TO TEST THE CONCEPT OF “JUDICIAL REVIEW”
(UNITED STATES CONGRESS). An Act Laying Duties Upon Carriages for the Conveyance of Persons. Third Congress of the United States: At the First Session. [Philadelphia: Printed by Francis Childs and John Swaine, 1794]. Folio, single leaf disbound from a sammelband volume, uncut; pp. 3, . $28,500.
First edition of Hamilton’s 1794 Carriage Act, the very first law to involve “judicial review,” defended by Alexander Hamilton in his only appearance before the Court in a momentous decision that “represented the first time the Supreme Court ever ruled on the constitutionality of an act of Congress,” a rare association copy from the library of early U.S. Senator Stephen Row Bradley, the drafter of the 12th amendment.
This is the extremely rare first printing of the 1794 Carriage Act, representing the very "first clear-cut challenge of the constitutionality of an Act of Congress to come before the Court" and the first case to involve "judicial review." Indeed, the case preceded, by a full seven years, "Chief Justice John Marshall's celebrated opinion in Marbury v. Madison (1803)" in which the Supreme Court would finally "explain its power of judicial review under the Constitution" (Hall, 419). Initially proposed by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton and signed into law by Washington on June 5, 1794, the Carriage Act sought to impose duties and graduated rates on leased and privately owned carriages. It "was enacted over vigorous opposition in the House of Representatives where among other objections the question of its constitutionality was raised" (Goebel I:778). The Act's complex relation to Article I of the Constitution was concerning—it raised the issues of proportionate taxation, the taxing authority of Congress and "whether the fee was a tax or a duty" (Smith, Constitution, 300). Shortly after the Act was passed, Daniel Hylton of Richmond and a number of his fellow Virginians refused to comply with it. "The controversy touched the sensitive question of the revenue-raising power of the new national government. The circuit court was divided on the question, but Hylton confessed to judgment (admitted liability) in order to test the constitutionality of the tax by an appeal to the Supreme Court" (Hall, 419).
By the time the Carriage Act had moved to the Supreme Court in early 1796, public interest had greatly increased. "Alexander Hamilton, in his only appearance before the Court, traveled to Philadelphia to defend "the constitutionality of the carriage tax he had introduced as treasury secretary. 'He spoke for three hours,' said one newspaper, 'and the whole of his argument was clear, impressive and classical" (Chernow, 501). "So many of the legislators flocked to hear him that Congress was virtually deserted" (Smith, 300). Hamilton's position "emphasized the legal doctrines supporting the tax through a broad reading of the Constitution's taxing power" (Urofsky, 147). The Court's decision "was unanimous that the law was constitutional" (Goebel I:780). That momentous decision confirmed "Hamilton's argument that… Congress had power 'over every species of taxable property, except exports.' This decision not only endorsed his broad view of federal taxing power but represented the first time the Supreme Court ever ruled on the constitutionality of an act of Congress" (Chernow, 501-2). Thus, judicial review began to take shape in America. Publication of this first edition ascribed to Francis Childs and John Swaine (Evans 27864), chief official printers of government documents whose firm followed the seat of government in its relocation from New York to Philadelphia in the 1790s (Powell, 99). NAIP locates four copies; OCLC lists one copy. This rare folio printing of the Carriage Act possesses a distinctive provenance; it is from the library of one of the first United States senators from Vermont, Stephen Row Bradley (1791-4, 1801-13), "the leading Democratic-Republican senator from New England during his day," who subsequently led the nomination of Madison for president. Arguably, his greatest accomplishment in the Senate—a period during which he was president pro tempore twice—was drafting the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, correcting the original Constitution-based problems with Electoral College voting for President and Vice President to prevent deadlocks and split tickets. He is also known for framing "the bill which established a national flag of 15 stripes and 15 stars, sometimes known as the Bradley flag, used from 1795-1814" (DAB).
Light foxing, three minute stabholes along inner margin. An especially important near-fine document in the history of American legal history, with a highly desirable association.